Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday musings

Well, this year is to all extent and purposes, done.
So many events occurred both worldly and locally that it is sometimes hard to process.
I am not the type to review the year month by month, there are many better read paid professionals that can and do do that. So I will leave the reading of the tea leaves to them.
I did have some of my heroes' leave us this year and that saddens me. To my good friend in Calgary, to the cartoonist Jim Unger, who once I had the honour to talk with to many years ago to Lincoln Alexander and Neil Armstrong, you will be missed and remembered.
I do celebrate the continued friendship of three young ladies that I refer to as my trio of “daughters. They continue to bring joy and humour into my life. Their friendship brightens and enriches me.
May the New Year be a good one for the author, the realtor and the entrepreneur!
I look back at our year and the transition from living in the Canadian Prairies to life here on an Island on the West Coast and the adventures in between.
To say that the year was interesting would be an understatement!
Well, America, the fiscal cliff nightmare is now underway.
Interesting how some “experts” are now saying that it is not a “cliff” but rather a “gentle slope”.
Say what?
Because of the cowardice of politicians of all stripes in the capital city, the average taxpayer is going to pay more income taxes, the elderly will have medical costs go up, the military budget will be chopped and those impacts will roll throughout the industrial economy and that is just the start and this is just a “slope?
I guess if you are wealthy or a politician that can raise your salary with impunity, probably so.
One of the things that puzzles me is the wording of the statement that previous era tax cuts will be reversed. Is it not spin doctoring to say this? Actually does it not mean that lawmakers are installing a new tax rate that compares to ones in previous years? And that they are responsible for these increases?
And while many might find fault with the Republican Party on its position on the economy, some things that they say do make sense. A country cannot continue to expand services without revenue to fund these increases. That is impossible and criminal. To borrow and borrow and “fudge” the books only delays the reckoning and increases the final bill.
Spending has to be stopped, curtailed or reduced as well as increasing some taxes.
Also it is so wrong to assume that to increase taxes on a minority – the 1% will pay all the debts and eliminates the deficit in one fell swoop.
First off the 1% - BTW, who is the genius that figured out that there was 1% instead of 2-4-10 or whatever % anyway? Catchy phrase but is it factually correct or does anyone really care as long as they can blame someone else for their problems? Anyway, the wealthy pay a lot of money in taxes – look at the total they pay and not just the percentage. Secondly,there seems to be a lot of subsidy programs in the States that are baffling to people in other countries. For one example, how about the money given to the dairy industry to subsidize their products? Milk at just over $2.50 a gallon in Washington State while in Canada it is almost $7.00. And forget the quaint notion of the American milk industry being run by small families struggling to survive, the majority of the industry is corporate based but with a damn fine political lobby that ensures money flows to them all the time. How about a system where you can get unemployment benefits for up to 2 years? In many other countries such as Canada, 15 to 45 weeks maximum plus you have to prove that you are actively looking for employment. Indeed items such as deductions for interest on mortgages is the envy of other countries – but who actually pays this cost in the end?
America could also look companies that park money offshore to avoid taxes pay their share. Sadly it takes a rare brand of courage to stop the gravy train and there seems to be a shortage of these politicians around the world, not just only in America. And it seems that the problems continue to be punted down the road and the next generation will be stuck with the bill.
In France the new law imposing a tax rate of 75% on the wealthy has been struck down.
It is so fashionable to blame the wealthy for all of societies ills. At one time, it was honourable to strive to get ahead in the world and that if the result of hard work, innovation and daring was wealth, then good for you. You took the risks and should reap the rewards. For I have to tell you, that as a former business owner, no one ever tried to help you if things did not work out and for what ever reasons the business failed. Instead the common reaction was that of scorn and ridicule. No one ever recalled the times when you missed a pay cheque in order to pay the wages of the employees and the bills of the suppliers.
No, no one did.
India is in turmoil over the vicious, violent, animalistic rape and eventual death of a woman by the hands of 6 men including the driver of the transit bus where she and her date had been on. The rape figures are staggering. Once again this shows the horrible way women are treated like possessions or objects and not as equals in these lands.
And yet India had Indira Ghandi as Prime Minister, how can this be?
Child brides, rapes, beatings, dressed like sacks of flour, denied education – this is the lot of life of women in so much of the world these days. And people from the Middle East, India, Pakistan and the Far East wonder why the so called Western world views their society and religions with feelings ranging from despair to anger to befuddlement to contempt?
They do not seem to want to help their cause it seems.
One wishes this perspective is wrong, but it just does not seem to be.
Nelson Mandela is out of hospital and home as is ex-President Bush Sr., good news on both fronts.
A Canadian Indian Chief is on a three week hunger strike demanding to have the Prime Minister come and meet her to help set up a timetable for righting all the wrongs that she deems exist in the relationship between the government and First Nations.
Many non First Nations would say that that would be wrong to have such a meeting. They will point to the massive amount of money that has flowed from the Canadian Government over decades and decades into First Nations with little or no accountability required. And they would point out that since accountability is now being sought, that the Leaders of the First Nations are more concerned about the money flowing to them and their families than the wellbeing of their reserves.
Interesting times ahead.
The next year will bring the events in Syria to a head. One way or another, regime change will occur and one has to wonder how the whole region will be impacted as a result. Status quo will not happen, we have seen the emergence of Hamas – fuelled by weapons from Iran and its hostility towards Israel. This situation will evolve and probably not in a positive way.
North Korea will apparently test a third atomic weapon soon.
How wonderful is that?
But you know, there is still plenty of good to look forward to these days.
There is a concept/philosophy called "pay forward" and we participate in  it. It is a small thing but I believe that if more and more people followed this path, good things for many will follow. Look it up and give it a try - it does not hurt and can do so much good.
You look back in history and things were bleaker many times. The main thing these days is that communication is world wide and 24 hours a day. That did not exist even 20 years ago. So while it is easy to get the impression that the world is falling apart with calamity and disasters everywhere, well, maybe so but then again maybe not. This has happened before and will happen again but the world will continue and babies will be born and crops will be fine.
It is a matter of balance and perspective and sometimes the obsessed agenda (both right and left driven are at fault) of the media forgets this.
These are amazing times we live in and hopefully the new year will be full of wondrous things and events.
Take care out there,
flatlander 52

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday musings

Crowds breaking into grocery stores in Argentina – shades of 2002.
Fiscal cliff,
American NRA denying reality in the wake of Newtown massacre, the list goes on and on..................
No, no more, not this week.
This is the weekend before Christmas and surely for a few short days the sadness, madness, sorrow of the world can just go away.
So with that, this will be the shortest column I have ever done in the almost two years now.
On behalf of myself and my better half, have a safe, peaceful holiday season. And for those that observe, a Merry Christmas. For those that do not, then perhaps just enjoy the time and appreciate the message of love and peace that transcends all politics and religion – correct?

Back next week!
Take care out there,

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday musings

I was reading an on line article the other day that struck me the wrong way. Heck, awkward phrasing but anyway, in the city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, a citizen filed a protest at city bus transit over the fact that the electronic message boards at the front top of city passes were in addition to flashing destinations, also flashed the message Merry Christmas. He claimed this religious advertising made other religious groups and atheists feel like second class citizens and should be stopped immediately.
First off, as a non religious person who respects and enjoys the Christmas Season and the messages of peace and love that it promotes, I have no problem with these type of messages and am sure others like me feel the same way. Also, for sure I do not feel like a second class citizen. And I also say to people like this – get real, this type of nonsense does no good whatsoever. Maybe instead of getting into a false righteous snit over perceived slights you could do some things for the less fortunate?
Honestly, with all the horror in the world this is a big deal?
Grow up.
Speaking of growing up, there are over 20 some young children in the United States that will never see another day because some insane person broke into the school they were attending and shot and murdered them.
And the NRA (National Rifle Association) and others bleat the same old refrain – guns do not kill people, people kill people. And the airwaves are full of people solemnly saying that “this is not the time to talk of gun control”.
Well, excuse me but when the Hell is it time?
If these gun promoting people, who declare that they have the right to own guns -as promised in their Constitution, want to have weapons, then let it be so. BUT let it be the guns that were available at the time this declaration was done – muskets, flintlock pistols, swords, bows and arrows and cannons. I somehow believe that the original framers of the declaration would be appalled at the way firearms have developed and how horrific the carnage is possible with modern weapons. Tell me again why a hunter needs an AK 47 type of weapon to hunt deer or ducks? Or why do they have to have body armour, or bullets that can pierce armour?
You know what will be the result of this massacre?
Nothing, nothing at all.
America, you should be ashamed.
You let the safety of the people matter less than that the power of the weapons lobby.
A wiser person than I asked me- since when did killing children in schools become so widespread? There have been a number of these horrors recently in the States, one a few years ago in a college in Canada, the carnage done in Europe by the madman in Norway last year. My friend says that a factor in this might be the lack of proper parenting by the last couple of generations that have abdicated child parenting, guiding and training to the TV screen, day care, and non supervised graphically gory and violent video games that teach that there are no repercussions from violent acts but rather a reset button to start again. Even the detail shown in violent TV shows is so much more than years ago.
Absenting parenting generations, is this possible?
I dunno, but there seems so much “instant now” for everything that the ability to stop and think about responsibility and consequences has been lost today and replaced by aimless postings of photographs of people in narcissistic poses and listings minutiae of moments in their lives. As if by doing so people say “Hey I matter”.
Sadly it only shows how little they really do.
And this problem does not only exist in the States. It is throughout the world. But only the Americans broadcast and debate such things so publicly, other countries try to pretend that these things never happen in their land, but only in the States. This way they can maintain their so-called higher morality compared to the Americans.
At least the Americans do try to do something about their problems!
This past Wednesday, in Brazil, a soccer match between a home club and a team visiting from Argentina was called after half time when security officials entered the visitors dressing room and beat the living day lights out of many players.
And Brazil is hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup of soccer. How wonderful and reassuring this bit of news must be to soccer agencies around the world. And what a great indictment of the sport in Brazil and the civil authorities.
It seems that maybe the economic malaise in Europe may be slowly lessening with the acceptance of a central agency to monitor all banking operations there now. Also Greece has gotten more money and Italy is slowly coming to grips with its fiscal insanity. On that point the Italian Leader, a Mr. Monti has declared he will soon resign as a result of intransigence of a large number of Italian politicians. Indeed the disgraced Mr. Berlusconi has indicated he will run again for the top office. This man is the one who many say is responsible for a great portion of the problems facing the Italian economy. As well he has been tried a number of times on various serious charges and convicted of tax fraud.
How reassuring this must be for the Italian people.
In Venezuela, the President, Mr. Chavez underwent another operation for the pelvic cancer that has stalked him for a while now in Cuba. Reports indicate that it was both a long and very difficult operation. Government officials indicate that he may not return to the country before the official swearing in date for him in January. This could cause problems as the laws are very clear on this and the consequences if not followed properly. The time left to Mr. Chavez seems very short now. And ironically commentators who have railed against him, now worry about the possible strife that might happen in the country when he is gone.
Elections are being held in Japan where polls indicate a return to right wing politics is coming.
The probable winner of Sunday's election,will be Shinzo Abe, who became prime minister in September 2006 and served for a year in office.The country essentially finds itself trying to return to the past.
In Poland, extreme right wing parties are gaining in support. Also in France, Greece, even murmurs of this are happening in Germany.
I believe that this is a sign of the fear people have in these troubled economic and strife filled times.
There is a growing tide of fear of loss of job, money, housing and savings and hope for a better future that is displayed in support for laws that roll back wages and benefits for workers that the public deem as spoiled, protected and self entitled. Not that it will make the proponents lives any better, it will make more share in the misery and despair and that makes them feel better.
This is so wrong in so many ways but no one appears ready to stand up and say so.
The era of compassion and a willingness to share “wealth” appears so far distant now. I doubt if things like Medicare and Employment Insurance programs would ever see the light of day these days.
No wonder so many of todays' “boomers” desperately long for the days of their childhood when the world seemed so bright and full of promise and anything, yes anything was possible – you just had to try.
I miss those days as well.
I was walking in a mall the other day and saw an interesting sight. At this time of year, every mall has a “Santa Claus” in residence and parents take their very young children there to have pictures taken of them (the children, not the parents!) with Santa. Usually it is a scene where a terrified youngster with tears in their eyes and squirming and howling to get away while Santa gamely holds on and the parents have a silly goofy smile on their face. Probably reliving the days when they went through this process and happy to inflict this on another generation. Well, I saw this one crying child who was not even near Santa but crying apparently because other children were crying, whose turn came, turned her head, saw Santa and let out a wonderful cry of joy and struggled madly to get away from her parents and run to the waiting arms of the fat old elf, oops, Santa that is! Laughing and smiling this child had a wonderful time and in that split instant, gave a poignant reminder to me of what the spirit of Christmas was about.
Magical moment.
If you are still looking for a last minute gift for someone special, a good book is always a good thing in my opinion. So, I offer a link at, of my favorite author, Deb Dalton to you -
As well, I also have a link to another author, Libby Heily as well, whose work you might enjoy -
Great writing/reading is a gift that will endure forever and we should all enjoy and promote it.
This week we are off to Regina for a short while to visit family and friends and extend our seasons greetngs to them. While not exactly over Christmas, (flight availability and hotel room space was almost non existent back in September!) we look forward to this time with them. 
Take care out there,
flatlander 52

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday musings

Things seem to be approaching a critical point in both Egypt and Syria these days.
In Egypt, the President, Mr. Morsi ( I wonder why 99% of the Western press spell his name that way but CNN does not?) has rescinded the decree that gave him dictatorial powers and immunity from the law in case he authored illegal acts and also invited opposition leaders to discuss revisions to the proposed constitution in an attempt to defuse protests against his regime by an ever increasing number of people. Meanwhile counter protests in his favour by supporters of the Islamic Brotherhood are also occurring with predictable violent bloody clashes between the two groups.
The prospect of a violent quasi religious civil war increases by the day.
In Syria reports continue to emerge that with his regime teetering on the brink of collapse, the President, Mr. Assad apparently has given the go ahead to prepare deadly chemical toxin based weapons for a last ditch attempt to defeat opponents or possibly start a “scorched earth” policy to destroy the land and people rather than giving way. Other reports that any attempt to convince Mr. Assad to flee the country are not having any success.
If this is true and events continue to unfold, perhaps he is destined to follow the same path as the late leader of Libya did, to his inglorious death.
Over in Argentina, tensions are increasing over a controversial radio licensing law. In short, critics contend that not allowing media companies to have multiple stations, the government by virtue of it having the authority to issue license renewal every two years, is creating a splintered radio community unable to mount any viable criticism of potential incorrect government laws and policies as they occur. Indeed the critics contend that with this license control, the government is creating radio stations that are beholding to them and willing to turn a blind eye to any problems that may happen.
First the changes to the Dollar versus Peso, restrictive bank regulations, inflation, nationalization of companies owned outside of Argentina proper - signs that may indicate the slippery road to dictatorship is underway.
If so, what a tragedy for such a wonderful country.
In the United States, the fiscal cliff hurtles toward the confused land at breakneck speed. It looks like instead of compromise, the American President, Mr. Obama seems determined to “break” the Republican Party. This past week the Republicans backed off their position of no new taxes and actually endorsed a plan very similar to what Mr. Obama had advocated earlier this summer.
And yet Mr. Obama flatly rejected this!
And, regardless whether or not the fiscal impasse is solved in the next few days, three new taxes will hit the US population on January 1st to help finance the changes to the American Health Care system which have been called Obamacare. One controversial tax is the one which will apply to all medical supplies and technologies. Everything from latex gloves to heart pacemakers will be affected.
And that will be passed on to the consumer.
I just have to shake my head and want to weep.
The rich and the politicians will not suffer, no they are too well insulated financially. The people who are too poor to have health plan insurance and savings and a job, how can they suffer more than they do now?
The ones that will be whipsawed relentlessly will be the ever shrinking middle class.
If you are of a certain age or have access to the TV shows broadcast in North America in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, you will remember some of the iconic shows of the day. Ones like Andy of Mayberry, The Nelsons, Father Knows Best, My Three Sons and the like spring to mind. In these shows, the lives portrayed were those of middle class suburban (mainly) families, living the American Dream of working hard, living right and success will surely come their way - and in those shows it did. Children of that era watching the shows, on the main, aspired to attain a middle class life following those dictates. That Middle Class made many things possible in much of the world. Things like social programs such as Universal Medicare for all ( sorry America, sometimes social intervention can do good)  Government regulated safety systems such as Food Inspection, Air transportation, environment protection were started and funded by the middle class in that time - not by any government, because no government creates wealth, it only taxes and spends wealth. Now the middle class is under attack by the so called uber rich and their legal minions as well as special interest groups and PAC’s (Political Action Committee’s) in the United States bent on securing their special status and usually tax exempt standing. All the while the middle class gets hammered and somehow blamed for this mess by a media that stopped being true to its heritage of being non political and beholding to no one or group. Instead most media is owned by special interest groups with specific agendas and are proud to flaunt it to people.
Sad, really sad isn’t it?
Nelson Mandela, age 94 was admitted to hospital this past Saturday for what has been termed as “tests”. Another icon who will soon no longer be with us. Giants like him do not seem to be with us anymore these days. Instead the youth revere people like Justin Bieber and women beaters like rap singer Chris Brown. Can you name any one that strides the world stage these days like Mandela, or Winston Churchill or Gandhi?
Can you?
In Venezuela, a day after returning from Cuba for hyperbaric chamber treatment, President Hugo Chavez announced that new tests had found cancerous cells and that in the coming days he would again return to Cuba for more treatment. This does not sound very good for the 58 year old leader sadly.
Robert Mugabe, the 88 year old leader of Zimbabwe is noted as looking eagerly forward to next years election in that ruin of a once prosperous land. Corruption, political murder and lawlessness apparently condoned and sponsored by the government has devastated the economy and decimated the population. It seems like the only time change will come to that land will be when Mugabe dies, probably in office which will in all likelihood be a forerunner of a bloody and devastating civil war that will further impoverish the land.
In Germany, auto giant General Motors has announced plans to stop building the Opel car at the plant in Bochem. Reports indicate that as many as 2300 workers will lose their jobs when this happens in late 2013 or early 2014.
All across Europe car purchasing has slowed as a result of the financial crisis of the past few years. People just are not buying cars and instead making the old ones last a couple of years or more longer. Or, if they have lost their jobs, buying a new car is not on their list of anything to buy as food, clothing, health and accommodation has become the sole focus in life.
Here in Canada, it appears that the Federal Government may be cancelling the purchase of a new fleet of military aircraft as costs have soared from a projected 8 billion dollars to over 45 billion! Can we hope that sanity has emerged in this process? Did you know that the whole purchase program was sole sourced? Yes, no bids were solicited from different manufacturers, just it seems, a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, “old buddy” verbal handshake to get the best price “possible” from a favoured supplier. Of course the Minister in Charge of that portfolio will not resign or be fired but probably get a raise or some other plum.
Oh Canada indeed!
OK, this week we had a couple of nights where the local news shrieked at us that SNOW was coming to devastate the area. Earnest and solemn faced talking heads endlessly intoned in funeralistic tone about road carnage, snarled traffic and old people stranded in their residences. And why oh why have YOU NOT GOTTEN SNOW TIRES YET?????
And on it went.
Of course, it did not snow.
Not a flurry and not a single flake - but by Gawd, it is on the way!!!!! At least so they say.
In talking to people that have moved here from areas such as the Prairies or the East of Canada, all well versed in winter road driving a true story emerges.
Yes, snow does fall here, no argument there at all. However that being said, it does not last for months on end. In fact it melts within hours. The problem is that they people born here have no idea of how to drive in snow/slush/ice. They seem to think that if the speed sign says 50 KPH, then they can do so, no matter what the road conditions. A sure recipe for slip, slide and crash - guaranteed. It seems the best thing to do is wait a day so the roads clear and the drivers have their “normal” roads back.
And that is fine by me. I have my chai latte and various power nibbles stockpiled so I can wait out any disruption!
Just a little over two weeks until Christmas, and I cannot wait for my usual cornucopia of presents from my better half.
I look forward to the “usual suspects”.
Tube socks, underwear, maybe a new apron?
I dunno, with all the changes in our lives this year, somehow gifts are not such a focus to me as they were in other years.
That is a good thing I think.
Anyway, take care out there,
flatlander 52

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday musings

In Bremen, Germany this week, legislation was passed to allow Muslim workers to take Islamic religious days off.
The days off will be without pay.
An Austrian investor, Rudolf Haberleitner indicated on Friday that he would take over hundreds of one-time Schlecker branch stores closed this year in Germany when the drugstore chain collapsed earlier this year. The bankrupt firm had over 5,00 branches and 25,000 employees. His early plans involves over 600 stores and looks to start in the early New Year.
It is good to hear something positive these days in terms of religious accommodation and in business matters as well.
Over in the United States politics as usual seems to be the tired refrain emerging from both the President and the Republican Party as they refuse to deal with the fiscal cliff mere days away now. Every one of those people seems determined to avoid doing their job at any and all cost. For crying out loud, if they were working for a living, say like a clerk in Walmart – their asses would be fired in a New York minute for incompetence.
And somehow the citizenry seems paralyzed by this and does nothing to galvanize these cowards into action. I caught a video clip of some far right wing hacks on CNN the other day where they both long and earnestly dissed the pop singing phenom PSY and his viral hit, Gangnam Style. They reflected longingly on the music and style of Elvis Presley. Do they not realize he has been dead for decades?Are they even on the same planet as the rest of the world? That fiscal cliff will in all likelihood devastate the weak economic recovery in the States and cause ripple effects throughout the ENTIRE PLANET!!!!!
And they talk about a music video.... fools.
I am so sorry America, but what the hell is going on with you people?
In Canada, the head of the Bank of Canada resigned effective early next year to take the equivalent position with the Bank of England. He is doing what all good skilled people do and that is going where the challenges and the rewards are best. His 5 odd years here were a boon for the country and his loss will be felt, as evidenced by the slight drop in the value of the Canadian Looney but that being said, as in the business world, the loss of one person in a large organization does not doom the firm but rather gives it an opportunity to renew and rededicate and improve. And so it will be for the Bank of Canada as there are many capable people more than willing to fill his place and the country will do well.
OK, something that I do not understand is the whole thing about shark fin soup. Who can possibly justify the death of a shark just for its fin to be removed and used as stock for soup? The same kind of idiot probably loves to use ground down rhino horn for its supposed “health” benefits. This constant killing, actually slaughter of a non human species just for some pathetic whim is beyond the pale and those that do it and those that promote and profit by it should be....... well, let's just say that there should be a punishment strong and humiliating enough to stop these cowardly practices.
Off we go to North Korea, the land whose previous glorious great leader, Kim Jon Il once shot 11 hole in ones the very first time he golfed, a news report where archaeologists recently found the area with the remains of a Unicorn once ridden by an ancient Korean king.
OK, works for me.
Unicorns and glitter abound in North Korea it seems.
Of more concern are reports that the country in in the process of attempting another trial launch of a long distance rocket. No money or resources to provide food and adequate shelter for many of the citizens but more than enough for the military.
You notice how more and more money is being poured into the military around the globe these days? And it is not just so called rogue states only doing this, indeed look at the great debate in the United States about the doomsday scenario forecast if the fiscal cliff budget cuts come into place in the New Year and how the reduction in the military budget will ruin the country. I remember how after the Second World War countries around the world downsized their military and turned the fiscal resources towards the domestic economy with the resultant boom in the wealth and standard of living of those countries. Indeed many believe that the period from 1950 to 1990 will be looked back upon as the true golden era of the world.
At the United Nations, the General Assembly voted to recognize “Palestine” as a non-member observer state. It now joins the Vatican in this regard. Just what does this accomplish anyway?
Indeed on Friday the Jewish government announced plans for 300 more settlements in disputed areas. It is going to be really difficult to create a Palestinian State in what will soon be territory mainly occupied by Israelis isn't it? Do you think the settlers will just pack up and go? Not with the American government backing them as well it seems as the oh so mighty Canadian government these days. I bet the governments in the Middle East are shaking in their boots at the muscle flexing of the Canadian government in support of Israel these days.
Also this week the body of Yassar Arafat was dug up in order to retrieve some “samples” for forensic testing. This may but probably will not put to at end one way of the other rumors of poisoning by Israeli agents as the real cause of his death. The question is, if disproved – who in the Arab world will believe it?
And if proven, then what?
In Egypt, despite massive protests and boycotts in the parliament by the non Islamic fundamentalist opposition, a draft constitution has been passed and will be voted on in the near future. Meanwhile counter protest demanding imposition of Sharia Law are starting to emerge and violence is increasing. Anyone beside me notice that the lot of women in Egypt has not improved one iota since the overthrow of Mubarak? Yet women were at the forefront of the uprising and many were assaulted and raped in the process with no justice ever meted out.
I remember talking to a person many years ago who said that the biggest failure of the West in its dealings with the Middle East and far East was in thinking that the values of the West would be adopted by those areas. This person said one could not change history and the societies that evolved in those regions as a result. To expect that men would relinquish their complete domination of women and be accepting of different viewpoints would be a fatal mistake. In the arrogance of my youth I thought that such thinking was oh so limited and not in keeping with the “real” world.
More and more I think I was wrong and this wise person was right.
Not a happy line of reasoning.....
In Buenos Aires, a little known story about the effects of unmanaged growth and lack of pollution controls continues to grow. Near Argentina's capital, years of growth along the Riachuelo river basin have gone largely unchecked. As companies flush heavy metals into the water, residents are being forced to suffer the side effects. The water is filthy and so contaminated that residents that live in the slums along the river cannot drink or bathe in it without drastic health consequences.
Does anyone there care?
Over in Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff vetoed parts of a controversial oil royalties bill that pit Brazil's oil-producing states against the rest of the country in a battle over future oil wealth. The bill would have pooled all royalty money so all regions could draw income from it. In Canada the royalties stay with each province but there is a scheme called “equalization” funding that in essence taxes so called “have” provinces on their surplus earnings and transfers that to “have not” provinces to balance out the confederation. Of course provinces like Quebec “cook” or fudge their fiscal books so that they end up with the rest of Canada subsidizing their social welfare state and fight tooth and nail against any attempt to actually balance the systems of payments. This way you have subsidized education, day care and the like while such things do not exist in the rest of the country. Ironically, the rate of taxation in Quebec is among the highest in Canada.
Enrique Peña Nieto took over as Mexican president this week, offering a shot at redemption for the party that shaped modern Mexico if he can bring about an end to years of violence and economic under performance. Returning the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to power after a 12-year hiatus, the 46-year-old Peña Nieto aims to use a recent improvement in the economy's fortunes to spark faster growth.
Time will tell.
November 28, was the 543rd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, who founded Sikhism and is the first of 10 Sikh gurus.
Well, we had our first frost of the winter season this past week but luckily the flowers in the back porch escaped with no damage. It is still difficult to grasp that we are now in December and just the other day our lawns were mowed. Back on the Prairies the people tell me the snow is higher and deeper than in many a year and the cold and bitter wind dominates. We feel blessed to be here and yes we know that the month of December traditionally is very wet and gloomy with some short lasting snow falls, but know, we are OK with that.
One of the things in moving to a smaller city is the change in scale for events. This week we went to a local German Craft Fair fully expecting to see many tables of goods ranging from clothes to food items. Well the Fair had about a dozen tables with some food and some, you could say non German related items for sale. The kitchen did offer up a number of tasty items such as rouladen and the like and that was fine. One has to admire people for doing Fairs like this and enjoy them for what they are and what they might become in the future.
Next year we will go again and have another fun outing.
We put a few Christmas “thingys” out front the other day and indeed have gotten a few compliments on them. 
I do draw the line at inflatable lit up plastic reindeer though!

take care out there,

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday musings

So you may remember that last year when the President of Egypt, Mr. Mubarak was overthrown in popular revolution, many experts hailed this dawn of a new democratic era in the country.

Then free elections were held and a Mr, Morsi was elected in his place. At the time many pointed to this as an indication of the evolution of democracy in Egypt.

I was soundly criticized by many for pointing out that Mr. Morsi was the candidate of a party that was founded on extreme Islamic principals with a goal of imposition of Sharia law and the repression of woman's rights and those of other religions as well. Some said I was seeing problems were none existed.

This week Mr. Morsi issued an edict assuming dictatorial powers far more than Mubarak had before him. The judiciary has been muzzled and opponents to him are now in jail. All the while members of his party celebrate and urge even more controls be placed in his and their party's hands. In essence, suspending or actually eliminating all democratic processes and rights in Egypt with Sharia law sure to follow.

Riots have occurred in protest and the future seems bleaker now than it did a week ago.

And, one can assume that the United States will sit by and not say anything because it seems that as long as the American government believes that they have a leader in Egypt that will follow existing peace treaties with Israel and as in the case last week, was part of the process (majour part actually) to sealing a truce in the latest violence between Hamas and Israel, that is good enough. At least they have someone they think they can control one assumes.

Not too sure if this is good idea.

And speaking (writing) of the conflict between Hamas and Israel, is it just me that finds it strange that while Hamas has killed a half dozen or so Israelis in its rockets attacks on Israel while having over 100 plus killed as well as a senior leader by Israel in return, as well as incredible infrastructure damage - that Hamas claims victory in this peace accord? And their people actually believe and celebrate this?

That kind of logic would make Monty Python proud.

Over in Europe, the people of Greece must be livid over recent budget meetings by the European Union. It seems that this political entity has no desire to impose fiscal restraint on its own staff. Heaven forbid that the free education for their children at exclusive schools should be paid by the parents - oh no, let their employer pay that. Raise the pension retirement age like many countries are being forced to do? Oh no, that will just not do. Have the employees contribute to their pension plans? Oh no, that would hurt them financially, that would be cruel. Delay or eliminate the construction of a multi million Euro museum dedicated to the history of the European Union and its employees? Oh no, the world needs to appreciate the oh so hard work of the overpaid, under worked, over entitled rulers of all of Europe.

Can you believe that?

No wonder the Greeks are rioting.

Argentina reports an increase of 15.5% in groceries sales over the previous year. Price increases for power utilities increase by 12.5%. All this points to an economy crumbling under, apparently government policies and inflation fueled by the policies. The subway system in Buenos Aires has been handed over to the city by the state with no funding at all causing massive increases in fares and reduction in services and maintenance programs. Some critics suggest this is the result of the combination of the personal beliefs of the President, Ms. Kirchner and that of the worst of socialism. Even though for many commentators from the United States, socialism is evil on a par with communism thereby denying the fact that many countries throughout the world use modified forms of socialism. especially in fields like health care where countries like Canada spend about $4,700 person a year on health care services compared to over $7,200 in the States.

Whatever the reason, this country is facing really tough times right now and and in the months and years ahead it seems.

In the United States with the looming fiscal cliff only short weeks away, the country is not seeing any action  among politicians and affected parties towards some solution and compromise that actually helps the average voter, but rather a deluge of advertising from special interest groups angrily defending their entitlements and demanding that some one else feel the pain, just not them. From companies dedicated to supplying the military to various large unions to the association (read: union) for retirees the battle is being waged. If they all would put this much money and effort into solving the problems instead of turf protecting, maybe something would get done. Instead it would seem that the only thing to emerge will be a bill passed to "punt" the day of reckoning down the road for another 6 to 9 months in the hopes that something, anything will emerge to distract the voter and somehow make the problem just magically go away without them having to actually do their job and then being held accountable for doing so.

Some people might call this cowardly.

So a lawsuit launched in Russia against Lady Gaga for issuing a statement in support of gays on the grounds that it would harm the youth and affect the birthrate has been denied. Good for the Russian legal system which has been suspect on many issues in the recent past.

Russia would be a great place to visit. Sadly, probably not in my time - that is unless some mysterious benefactor invites me - right, as if that would ever happen!

Meanwhile in Germany there is a sad story emerging about flawed governments (being polite here) and banks. Back in the 1970's many "guest workers" from the then Yugoslavia saved their earnings in a bank in what is now Slovenia. When the country dissolved, the banks assets were transferred to a new legal entity bank but not its liabilities with the approval of the Slovenian government. There are millions of Euros lost as a consequence, Thousands of people have had their savings and retirement lost with only a hollow legal victory that has no teeth for enforcement.

This is wrong, but in all probability nothing will be done as the victims are not politically powerful - they are just ordinary citizens.


In Spain, the once powerful terrorist group Eta has said it is ready to disband and willing to enter into talks with the French and Spanish governments. The government has rejected the offer and indeed a top Eta leader has been arrested by French authorities. Meanwhile tension increase in Spain in the Catalonia region where talk of separation has intensified.

So today dawned bright and sunny and we decided to go to the harbour front to see Santa come into town via a float plane.

It was an interesting time to say the least. I am used to Santa coming to town with lots of snow and ice on the ground accompanied by bitter bone chilling temperature and wind. Nor walking around with a light sweater on while sipping a hot chocolate and then walking on green grass along the waterfront later.

Strange feeling.

Then we watched a float plane take off and that was a first time event for us.

Finally starting to get an idea of Christmas gifts for the better half. One thing she mentioned that she would not mind waking up to on Christmas Day was Johnny Depp – I don't think so!!!!!
take care out there,
flatlander 52

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday musings

This is a case where being wrong in something makes no difference – the result is still horrible.
I have mentioned recently that the senseless civil war in Syria might be the precursor to a wider conflict in the Middle East. Sadly it appears that the old enemies of the area – Hamas and Israel will take the lead point instead. In retaliation for rockets being fired into Israel, the killing of a senior Hamas leader by the Israelis in retaliation ratcheted up the tensions and now more rockets are thundering into Israel and counter attacks are occurring. Military reserves are being called up by Israel and a ground war seems more likely than at any time in recent history.
Much can be said and indeed has been said over the years about this conflict. It seems there are experts that are legion on both sides of the debate/war/tragedy. I am not a qualified pundit and indeed, what would my opinion matter anyway? That being said, I cannot believe that something like this can not be resolved – if there are honourable men and women on both sides willing to commit to peace and justice. But there are fanatics and idiots that abound on all sides that sabotage any attempt to do so.
I dunno....
News reports indicate that as soon as 2025 the United States will become a net EXPORTER of crude oil. Am I the only one wondering what the heck is going on here? If like me, you recall, over the past decade more and more so called petrol experts and indeed, even eco fanatics were trumpeting the soon to happen disappearance of crude oil and the end of western civilization, especially the much reviled (by these experts at least) United States. And lo, there was much joy at these pronouncements. Yes, the Yanks will finally get their comeuppance and the world can revert to the life style so wondrous and so in harmony with nature – you guessed – the Middle Ages. Of course things like health care, medicine, electricity, Iphones, hot tubs and the like would somehow still work for the “enlightened” people – never could figure out that B.S. Amazing how these folks want the worst for everyone else but definitely not for themselves. But I digress, anyway it seems that the Americans have been finding oil in their country at an incredible pace and will be self sufficient pretty soon. Darn them anyway!
Actually what will also probably happen is that the Americans will continue to purchase massive amounts of Canadian crude at NAFTA (look that up if interested) imposed world price discounts to fuel their economy while exporting all their crude at higher world rates thereby making money on the whole deal. One suspects Canada will be among those buying their crude for its Eastern provinces because the small minded premiers of most provinces in Canada refuse to allow pipelines to cross their borders purely for political gain all the while ignoring the needs of their populace.
Ironic that an exporter of crude pays higher price for gas internally than a country like the US which for a short while longer still imports its oil.
Oh Canada indeed!
The looming "fiscal cliff" in America is approaching at a blinding speed. Year end is the deadline for any resolution to their fiscal impasse. The political heads all profess good faith and a willingness to compromise for the greater good - yet if you look closely, you can see the small smirks on the faces as they say that. They really believe that the people accept what they are saying as honest. Read a little deeper into their comments and you still see the hardline positions that brought them to this dangerous precipice. These political hacks really think the average American is stupid and does not see what they are doing or rather what they refuse to do. They are so used to hearing their own lies and that of political supplicants and donors that they live in a cotton candy world of their own. Well, the world money markets are taking notice of this and sadly, the probably of a new world recession with the United States leading the downward economic spiral becomes more of a reality with each passing day.
OK- over to Bremen, Germany we go.
Once again this year, the SlowFisch convention has celebrated local fishing traditions and artisanal food production. A local businessman has built a website called ‘Fisch vom Kutter’ which means ‘fish from boats’ in German. The site gathers SMS messages from fishermen who are returning to shore with their day's haul. Customers can go online and find out what kind of fish is for sale at which port. The project is now two years old and the site tallies around 600 hits a day. This way people are assured of fish when they go to market instead of times before when many went shopping and returned with nothing due to poor catches or other conditions making purchase of fish impossible.
Good idea.
Crafty buggers those Germans!
This Tuesday there will be a national strike in Argentina. Protests against the economic direction the country is taking as well as general unease about the rate of inflation, cutbacks and economic difficulties are spreading. This week also saw the majour power supply companies in the country report huge operating deficits with no relief in sight. In the space of a couple of years Argentina seems to gone from an economic tiger to one in need of help.
This is not good for all of South America and not just Argentina.
In France, tens of thousands of people , along with Catholic church leaders, marched Saturday in protest against plans by the government to introduce same sex marriage This in a country that prides and indeed promotes itself as a paragon of tolerance and an attitude of joie de vivre?
The President of France, Mr. Hollande plans to introduce a tax rate of 75% on everyone earning over 1 million Euros per year in the next few months. As a result there seems to be a mass exodus of wealthy people from France to countries like Belgium where the tax rate is much lower. The latest appears to be Gerard Depardieu the famous actor of over 170 films who has purchased/is purchasing property in Nechin. One realizes that is is fashionable to rail against the “1%” and demand that they pay more in taxes. Perhaps the discussion should focus a little more on having equitable tax rate for all. Some people think that the so called 1% do nothing in life and are parasites on the economy. Well, maybe some are but definitely not all or even a slim majourity at that. Even the rich over paid athletes or reality stars that I have occasionally mentioned put real money into the economy. For all they earn/are paid, they spend lots on clothes goods and services. They have extensive staff who are paid and in turn pay taxes and spend money. Indeed one hears many stories of once high flying athletes that essentially squandered all their money and live almost destitute after their bodies have worn out on the field and the limelight has left them.
For the so called capitalist owners – well, in almost all cases, these are small business owners. Indeed I was once one of them. They gambled on an idea, concept, product or a service with their time, effort and money. And many times they (and I write from personal experience) did without a paycheque while their staff faithfully got theirs in the formative years of the company they founded. And it was their house and savings on the line with the bank or credit union if things went wrong – not the employees. So if they want to declare a dividend or take some more money home or lease a car or whatever once the company is doing well, then why not? I say good for them. They have created jobs, not like government that by its nature is parasitical in form. Governments are funded by the taxpayer – something many governments at all levels tend to forget in their arrogance at times. Governments do not create wealth – unless one counts graft, corruption and nepotism to friends and family that is.
The second wife of TS Eliot passed away this week. Kind of shows my ignorance of he and his life as I assumed he was a person of letters from the 1800's. This modern day has its own giants, sometimes we just do not see them sadly.
Speaking of the useless United Nations, once again in secretive meetings not open to the public, attempts by many governments to impose control over the Internet continue. Reports emerge that Russia apparently wants each country to have total control over what is posted on the Web in its area. Something like what appears to be the norm in China one assumes. It seems to be the case also in countries like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan.....getting a picture from this? The theory once so fervently espoused by academics of a wired global village sharing common values and ideals is revealed as no more than a poor jest fuelled by naivety or even stupidity.
In India, Bal Thackeray, a somewhat controversial politician who dominated affairs in Mumbai for over 40 years and increased sectarianism in the city died of cardiac arrest at the age of 86.
I went into the inner harbour business area this week for my regular hair cut, a process that as time marches on produces smaller, fewer and thinner clippings on the plastic “bib” that is fastened around ones neck. Darn. Anyway, while walking around the area I walked by and then had to stop and back up to view a storefront that seemed like a glimpse of yesterday.

I think most of us recall the days when stores had great signage on them. Whether as in this case, a rotating globe or flashing neon, animated figures or the like, the signage was fun and cheerful and individual. Nowadays, well, blah is probably the best word that comes to mind. This city has many such stores and maybe though other writings, I will show a few more to you.
Well, another week has flown by, indeed only 5 more weeks until Christmas and yes, for the first time in decades, I have not bought the presents for my better half by June of this year. You blink and the months rush by you. But that being said, now is the time to start the list. And for those among you that like good reading, I shamelessly offer one of my favourite authors to you – Deb Dalton – and here is a link to her site –
And with that, take care out there,
flatlander 52